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Interview with Pasquale D'Silva

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Read Time: 10 mins

Pasquale is an illustrator and animator raised in Australia and currently residing in Vancouver, Canada. He has training in animation and loads of experience illustrating. His work is often humorous and super-fun. He talks about his workflow, background, current creative projects, and more in this interview. Let's have a chat with Pasquale D'Silva!

1. Hello Pasquale, please tell us a bit about yourself. Where are you from, what training do you have, and how did you get started in the field? How long have you been illustrating and animating?

Ahoy! I'm a 20 year old, human male from the wonderful continent some might call Australia. I spent the good part of my life on the sunny Gold Coast, Queensland; most recently studying in Brisbane City in a Bachelor of Screen and Animation.

I started taking my scribbling more seriously in mid-highschool. I originally planned to be taking the microelectronic/mechanical engineer route, but somehow the math wasn't so appealing. Animation was something that had always fascinated me before I could even walk.

It wasn't until seeing some B-Roll tapes of old Walt Disney studios, that I realized that adults were payed to make funny animals and people come to life. "No way this could be real," I thought. Grown men and women were allowed to sit around all day making fun things for boys and girls (and adults who never grow up)? I figured it would be way more fun than sitting at a computer crunching numbers and math all day to tell robots what to do; so I started tinkering with animation.

I was fortunate enough to meet a wonderful ex-Disney animator at a film festival. He taught me the ropes of traditional cell/lightbox animation. After compiling a stack of experiments into a crude reel (at about the age of 15), I sent it in to the Warner Brothers studio in my city. They allowed me to intern in their studio, learning 3D animation techniques; which eventually turned into a job on two animated series.

I'm currently freelancing and living in beautiful Vancouver, Canada.

2. How long did it take you to get a foothold in the industry and establish some regular clients? Do you work with agencies or individual companies more? What key business decisions have had a positive impact on your business?

Within the first year of tinkering with Animation and Illustration, I came across a number of great contacts. As my portfolio filled up with independent and commercial jobs, the amount of work grew exponentially. I have some roots in design, so dealing with clientele from the Internet had and is my main source of work.

Since Warner Bros, I've dealt only with individual companies. Working in house felt like living with a really big family and I miss that a lot, but since moving out to Vancouver, my individual projects have been streaming in too fast to settle with an agency just yet. I find that working with individual companies allows for more diversity in work, but of course that comes with the consequence of uncertainty.

The most useful business decision for me has been my method of development with clients. I like them to feel that they have as much control as they can in the creative process as far as direction goes. If they want to kick back and let me pull something wild out of my hat - all the better. Having a friendly and down to earth relationship with clients in this industry is crucial to sell your artwork and it's inherent personality.

3. Does your work tend to focus more on illustrations, animation, or various other projects? What's that happy mix for you with balancing various types of creative projects?

Right now the bulk of my work is in Illustration. Being an animator, the bulk of my designs have a very animation oriented design method. I've directed and animated several commercial projects, but most web projects are short term - and animation is very long term and tedious at times! I always have some crazy idea on the back burner to chip away at between projects (films, writing, illustration ideas, character design, etc). As long as I am working on something fresh every day, I am a happy chap.

4. Could you tell us about your collaboration experiences. Is there a project that was particularly successful because of a collaborative effort? What was your role in the project?

My last animated collaboration was a piece produced in a miniscule timeframe. We developed an idea and animated it in under 2 weeks. My partner provided voice talent, sound design and animation, whilst I designed characters and background layouts as well as animating.

Collaborating is my favorite thing to do. I always end up working on many throwaway projects that I'll come back to from time to time. I love bouncing ideas off friends and colleges. It's great to allow people to specialize. I often work with friends who develop software to power visual ideas. When I last visited friends in the United States, we started building some robots sculptures that I sculpted and they developed electronics and software for.

5. What's been your most challenging project so far in your career? What was challenging about it? And how did you overcome those challenges?

I'm currently working on my most challenging project titled "Packed," a live action film with 2D visual effects. It's a collaboration with a wonderful videographer also from Vancouver. The challenge is accomplishing the matchmoving and compositing on our minimal budget. We've been developing DIY rigs for the shots and experimenting with different methods to composite a very different style of effects animation.

Rather than aiming to make something that looks photoreal, I think that exploiting the medium to produce impossible and funny outcomes could be much more rewarding. It's highly experimental in development right now, but you can see the project grow here.

6. Could you walk us through the vector character designs you did for the Smashing Magazine staff. What is your workflow when creating characters? Do you see yourself doing more work for various creative blogs in the future? In your opinion, what are the key components of a successful character design?

Vitaly Friedman of SmashingMag came to me looking for illustrations of the staff. If a client doesn't have a specific direction for a style, I'll produce a rough spread of pencil sketched candidates.


After the picks are selected, I'll amend any requested tweaks or changes into a tightened rough sketch. The sketch was taken into Illustrator and hand inked with some careful brushwork and pen tool to tighten the flowlines. You can read my previous article on establishing flow here.


After this was done, I rendered the vector as a raster to do some soft shading in Photoshop using some blended layering for some added warmth.


We then gave each other high-fives and went to party on the moon (this stage is optional).


I get a lot of work developing characters for web and blog design, so I embrace them. I think the key to successful character design is attention to form readability, uniqueness and of course appeal. You should be able to instantly recognize strong shapes, but also empathize. It should have its own story to tell.

7. Who's work are you inspired by? What websites are you drawn to? What has captured your imagination? What has shaped your creative growth?

Some of my favorite artists are Don Shank, Teddy Newton (both currently at Pixar) and John K (Ren and Stimpy). They are masters of their respective arts.

My regular reads are yayeveryday.com, boingboing.net and drawn.ca. I usually find a lot of freshly dug up gems from there. I also started jumping into tumblr more actively. It's really nice to be able to share content communally, and a lot of great artists hang out there.

What most juices my imagination and shapes my creative growth is meeting and interacting with other creative individuals. I can't recommend it enough. Learning from others is the best way to play.

8. What is your favorite part of working with vector graphics? How much of your work is done in that medium for illustration and animation? Are you as comfortable with vector pens and brushes as you are analog tools?

The best part is the ability to be really flexible with changes. Unlike raster, reshaping doesn't require redrawing. It's a juggling act of bending and balancing.

Close to all of my work for animation ends up being pushed through the vector mill - though a lot of times back out for compositing. In illustration, it's a pretty even mix between vector and raster. Something about analog, natural media has so much character however. I always have a sketchbook going. I've always enjoyed pencil on paper. Life drawing, and observational drawing using the most basic tools teaches a lot about translating seeing to drawing.

After working in digital for years, it feels pretty similar to analog. I finally acquired a Wacom Cintiq display which is more natural to work on than the separate Intuos model.

9. What software drives your creative workflow for your illustration and animations work? To what extent has sketching and traditional drawing methods played a role in your artistic development?

I start most of my pieces out with pencil on paper (or lately stylus on Cintiq into Autodesk Sketchbook Pro). Be it storyboarding or thumbnailing for illustration, using a temporary and disposable medium removes the pressure to get a drawing working the first time it is down. In the planning stages, I find that it's always best to be loose and move with plenty of vitality.

I'll then tidy up the sketch and drop it onto a vector canvas in either Flash, or Illustrator. I'll rebrush the lines by hand to give it some dynamic action, dealing with blocks of color last.

Traditional principals and drawing methods have played the most significant role in my development. I'm still learning everyday. A traditional background really separates the men from the boys. Understanding simple principals such as construction, composition and appeal is the best way to cancel out mediocrity.

I'm a big fan of John K's ruthless approach and criticisms. Being a good draftsman isn't something that comes right away. It takes many, many years of practice and experience to be up there with the best. I make sure to draw every day so I can improve my understanding and become a better artist. I still feel I am nowhere close to where I want to be yet!

10. What are your plans for the future? Any creative work coming up, or that you're currently working on, that you're excited about?

I plan to keep freelancing whilst settling into a studio in the very near future to get back into the nurturing environment. I'm working on several cool things right now. Some under wraps, and some nearly out of the oven. As I mentioned before, "Packed" is in progress. We are casting and shooting soon, so I'll be nutting out the VFX work in the next months.

Print is something I'd always wanted to experiment with. So with that being said, I'm really excited to say that I am opening a Print store. I'm selling graphic tees and wallprints, but being really picky about what I include so it can be great. I'd love to see people wearing my art on their chests and walls.

11. Thanks for the interview Pasquale! Is there any advice that you'd like to give aspiring illustrators and designers who are working hard to grow professionally?

My pleasure! My best piece of advice is to interact with other artists. Learn from each other, learn from critique and collaborate. Force yourself to try new things, and soak up everything that you can.

Pasquale on the Web

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